Thursday, May 8, 2008

Put Another Dime in the Jukebox Baby

Let's talk about something other than running. One of the other things I like to do is listen to music, and my tastes are all over the shop. One of my favorite chill-out things is to put my feet up on a stormy night with a glass of wine, switch off the lights and listen to some jazz, blues, Vivaldi or Pink Floyd. At other times, depending on my mood, I love classic 80s bands, mid 90s Brit pop, Nirvana, a bit of Warren Zevon, maybe even some Carrie Underwood, Linkin Park or Iggy Pop thrown in. My ipod selection is similarly all over the place - you just don't know what will pop up in there. However, the problem I kept having was that my music collection was completely unorganized. I had cds all over the place, mp3s I'd downloaded and had lost track of, and no real stereo system set up. In other words, complete chaos. So about a year ago I decided to fix this, move my cd collection to MP3 and build myself a standalone MP3 jukebox. Wasn't sure exactly what I was after, but I knew there were several things I wanted.
  1. It had to be compact - I didn't think my wife would welcome a full sized jukebox in our dining room
  2. I wanted it to look sleek and modern
  3. I wanted it to play movies
  4. I wanted it to work like a real jukebox, with scrolling titles and dropping in quarters to choose tracks
  5. I didn't want it to look or feel anything like a computer
So I went away and sketched out a few ideas, came up with a couple of designs I thought would work, and built it. I bought an old computer on ebay for $0.99 and a 15" plasma screen monitor for $20 (picked both up locally and avoided shipping charges) and built my measurements around the decased motherboard. I couldn't decide whether I wanted a singles jukebox or an album jukebox, so I set the computer up to boot into a custom menu and had an option to run either along with a dvd player (hidden in the side), an application to hold my recipe collection and I also threw in a few classic arcade games (pacman, centipede etc). I bought a cheap pair of computer speakers, threw away the speakers and hooked the amp up to a pair of car speakers. The buttons are arcade pushbuttons I bought online. I ripped up an old keyboard and wired each button to the circuit board to simulate a keyboard stroke. Then I set up the jukebox software (a great freeware application called DW Jukebox) to match the keycodes I programmed into the buttons. I wanted something on there to personalize it so I played around in Paint Shop Pro and blended a picture I took of Decker Lake with a few photos of Gavin and named the beast. Got it printed out on special paper and backlit it. Makes a nice final effect, don't ya think?

I love my jukebox - it sounds great, it's small and easy to use, and I have over 100 albums and 100s of singles on it. I have a sound effect for coins dropping in each time you hit the credit button, and between each song there's the sound effect of a jukebox mechanism fetching a record, placing it on a turntable, and the crackling as the needle hits the groove. I've also labelled all the buttons since I took these photos. The whole thing is really easy to move around - I've even been known to wheel it outside to listen to on my front porch.

Jukebox Number 2
My father-in-law also liked it and wanted one too, but he preferred a more old fashioned look. I had a great idea to build one for his birthday as a surprise and model it on an old wurlitzer with the curved top. This was a completely different challenge and I had the chance to build in several things I wanted in the other one but didn't have room for, like a real coin mechanism to generate credits for jukebox plays (I just used a button in mine). Nancy did a great job on the stain and I was really pleased with the way this one came out too.

Oh, in case you're wondering, I'm not so mean that I'd make him put quarters in each time he wanted to use it. I programmed a button combination to override the credits. My wife overruled my idea to put a lockbox inside to hold the quarters which I could then empty each time we visited :-)


johnt said...

Mid 90's Brit POP! Are you a secret Spice Girls Fan? hahaha The jukebox is awesome man!

Mark said...

Ha ha. No, my taste isn't quite that bad John!! I'm thinking more of bands like Oasis, Blur, Pulp, Sleeper, Ocean Colour Scene, Manic Street Preachers etc. In the mid 90s I was living in Manchester, England - pretty much the center of the Britpop movement. Every time I hear those songs it takes me back to that place and time. Monday night pub quizes at the Griffin, 5-a-side football games, Thursday night "big night out", rugby league world cup, Euro 96 soccer tournament. Ah, nostalgia - great times.